Cambyses passed a sleepless night. The feeling of jealousy, so totally new to him, increased his desire to possess Nitetis, but he dared not take her as his wife yet, as the Persian law forbade the king to marry a foreign wife, until she had become familiar with the customs of Iran and confessed herself a disciple of Zoroaster.
[Zoroaster, really Zarathustra or Zerethoschtro, was one of the `greatest among founders of new religions and lawgivers. His name signified “golden star” according to Anquetil du Perron. But this interpretation is as doubtful, as the many others which have been attempted. An appropriate one is given in the essay by Kern quoted below, from zara golden, and thwistra glittering; thus “the gold glittering one.” It is uncertain whether he was born in Bactria, Media or Persia, Anquetil thinks in Urmi, a town in Aderbaijan. His father’s name was Porosehasp, his mother’s Dogdo, and his family boasted of royal descent. The time of his birth is very,—Spiegel says “hopelessly”—dark. Anquetil, and many other scholars would place it in the reign of Darius, a view which has been proved to be incorrect by Spiegel, Duncker and v. Schack in his introduction.]
According to this law a whole year must pass before Nitetis could become the wife of a Persian monarch? but what was the law to Cambyses? In his eyes the law was embodied in his own person, and in his opinion three months would be amply sufficient to initiate Nitetis in the Magian mysteries, after which process she could become his bride.
To-day his other wives seemed hateful, even loathsome, to him. From Cambyses’ earliest youth his house had been carefully provided with women. Beautiful girls from all parts of Asia, black-eyed Armenians, dazzlingly fair maidens from the Caucasus, delicate girls from the shores of the Ganges, luxurious Babylonian women, golden-haired Persians and the effeminate daughters of the Median plains; indeed many of the noblest Achaemenidae had given him their daughters in marriage.
Phaedime, the daughter of Otanes, and niece of his own mother Kassandane, had been Cambyses’ favorite wife hitherto, or at least the only one of whom it could be said that she was more to him than a purchased slave would have been. But even she, in his present sated and disgusted state of feeling, seemed vulgar and contemptible, especially when he thought of Nitetis.
The Egyptian seemed formed of nobler, better stuff than they all. They were flattering, coaxing girls; Nitetis was a queen. They humbled themselves in the dust at his feet; but when he thought of Nitetis, he beheld her erect, standing before him, on the same proud level as himself. He determined that from henceforth she should not only occupy Phaedime’s place, but should be to him what Kassandane had been to his father Cyrus.
She was the only one of his wives who could assist him by her knowledge and advice; the others were all like children, ignorant, and caring for nothing but dress and finery: living only for petty intrigues and useless trifles. This Egyptian girl would be obliged to love him, for he would be her protector, her lord, her father and brother in this foreign land.